It’s 3:00 a.m. and you’ve been awakened by a shake. Some dishes in the kitchen may have hit the floor, the dog is barking, and you jump out of bed and rush to the doorway in hopes that the worst of it has passed. This happens quite a bit in areas that sit near fault lines, but how can you get immediate information about not only what happened, but whether or not something more severe is expected to follow?
Believe it or not, there are quite a few resources out there that you can use to get updated, real-time information about earthquakes. Some of them can be accessed through your mobile or desktop browser, while others are accessible through dedicated apps for a little extra functionality.
USGS Earthquake Map
The United States Geological Survey tracks seismic activity as it happens around the world. Residents of the US (and beyond) can check the real-time map for data on current and recent activity including earthquake magnitude, estimated property damage, areas affected, and depth of the source.
It’s perhaps the most robust single resource for anyone interested in finding out what exactly happened at a specific time and place, as well as who exactly would be impacted by the shaking.
USGS is working on an early warning system that’s currently in beta. This system will undoubtedly be made available to the general public through the primary site, so you may want to stay tuned for that.
While eQuakes.info isn’t managed by any single government agency, the data it provides is accurate and very easy to read. The front page includes a list of 5.0+ earthquakes that have occurred in recent history. Clicking on an item brings you to a map pinpointing the location along with aftershocks which have occurred (of magnitude 5.0+) and other useful data.
You don’t get any serious specifics here, but the data is clean and easy to follow if you just want to find out where an earthquake took place and how many people are directly affected.
Useful Twitter Accounts
Twitter is one of the fastest ways to send and receive information about a major event. If an earthquake of significant magnitude takes place in a populated region, you can bet there will be tweets about it very quickly. There are a few Twitter accounts I would recommend following if you live in a region that is prone to more aggressive shaking.
This Twitter account is managed by the USGS and monitors Twitter in addition to seismic monitors from around the world to deliver immediate information regarding earthquakes that reach a magnitude of 5.5 or above. If Twitter blows up with reports about an earthquake happening in the Los Angeles area, it’ll relay this information along with a count of tweets from that area about the quake. #quake is currently the primary hashtag being used to report shaking in your area.
If you want just the straight seismic information about shaking going on, this is the Twitter account for you. It’s also managed by the USGS and relays immediate data following registered activity at a magnitude of 6.0 and above taking place anywhere in the world. Along with a tweet, you’ll receive a link to a site with more information about the earthquake including estimated property damage and risk to life.
Provided by eQuakes.info, this Twitter account relays information about recent earthquakes of a specific magnitude along with the exact date and time of the occurrence. In order to appear on this account, the shaking has to reach a level of 5.0 or above, so you won’t be bothered by every tiny little shake as it happens.
iOS and Android Apps
There are numerous apps out there that help you report and be alerted to seismic activity as it happens in your area. Below are two of them that could be useful to have on your device (just in case).
Earthquake Alert! — Android
This app has a boatload of useful tools for anyone living in an earthquake-prone area. It can alert you to activity and allow you to send a report to the USGS to help improve early-alert systems being developed. It also includes maps and social media tools to help you become more aware of what’s going on.
Earthquake — iOS
Earthquake, like Earthquake Alert! for Android, is a great all-around app for being alerted to and informed about recent activity in your area. You can set up push alerts as well as find out about tsunamis and other hazards that result from earthquakes. Data sources are numerous, and it’s perhaps the most highly recommended earthquake app I’ve found to date for iOS.
Is there a tool you would recommend for someone in a seismically active area?